Ushuaia was inhabited by the Yamana tribal Indians about 10,000 years ago. It was first encountered by Magellan in 1520. Upon seeing the area, he noted large bonfires that lit up the sky from the indigenous settlements. He was inspired to call the area, Tierra del Fuego – Land of Fire. A permanent outside influence did not arrive until 1833 when Captain Robert FitzRoy came during a British missionary voyage exploring the Tierra del Fuego area. The region was under indigenous control until Argentina took control in the 1870s. It was organized into a territory in 1885. European immigration followed soon after, due to a gold rush and an expansion of sheep ranching. It is separated from the mainland of Argentina by the Strait of Magellan on the north and is surrounded by Chile on the west and is the southernmost city in Argentina.
Our cruise ship arrived in Ushuaia just before sunrise and while we ate breakfast, we were rewarded with great views of the Beagle Channel.
The mountains and views of the area were equally impressive.
When we got off the ship in Ushuaia we were met with an “inmate”. Argentina declared the area so remote that it was designated a penal colony in 1896. A jail was completed in 1902. Inmates were sent to serve their sentence at the “end of the World”. The jail operated until 1942.
We met our tour guide Jenifer and driver Sergio and headed for Tierra del Fuego National Park. Jennifer passed around a book with pictures of the area.
She also told us a bit about the area…the main industries of the area are factories that make TVs and cell phones, oil and gas wells, sheep ranching, and tourism, including skiing. The ski season is from July – October in the nearby Andes Mountains. These industries have proven to be very lucrative and the island is tax-free. We stopped briefly at the park entrance, while Jennifer got tickets for our group. The park was established in 1960 and expanded in 1966.
Our first stop was at Ensenada Bay or Ensenada Zaratiegul, for a beautiful view of the Beagle Channel. The channel is 150 miles long 3 miles wide at it’s narrowest point.It is the less frequently traveled route by ships, with most using the Strait of Magellan to the north or the Drake Passage to the south. It was named after the the ship HMS Beagle during a survey of the southern tip of South America from 1826 – 1830. The expedition included Charles Darwin.
Even with the over-cast skies, the view was beautiful.
There is a post office that operates on the dock, which is considered the most southern post office.
Our next stop was Lake Roca or Laco Acigami.
Jennifer told us about the growths on Beech trees. Charles Darwin was the first to write about them. A fungus invades a tree limb. It sends out signals that causes the tree to form a gnarled gall that sustains the fungus. Orange balls are produced by the fungus and are considered edible, however, Jennifer said she was urged to eat one and ended up in the hospital for a week.
From here we went to the park headquarters. There is a small information center, a nature museum, and a cafe.
The nature museum had displays and the geology as well as the park’s wildlife.
There was also information on the the area’s original inhabitants, the Yamana. The extinction of these people is linked to the arrival of European explorers in the 1890’s. The main cause was disease, but they were also hunted down as well as poisoned by the colonist and sealers. At the arrival of the Europeans there were approximately 3,000 Yamanas in the area. By 1910 there were fewer than 100 remaining.
We then enjoyed some wonderful cookies from the cafe, but the other treats looked equally amazing.
Just outside the visitor center we had great views of the mountains, as well as well as black-necked swans.
The main purpose of this tour is to take you to the End of the World sign, which marks the end of the Pan American highway. The highway from start to finish is over 11,000 miles long, however, there are several routes in the US and Mexico, so there are over 30,000 miles that are considered part of the Pan American highway system. In 2016, we were fortunate to drive to Alaska, and we drove the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle sign. The Pan American Highway begins in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and travels down the Dalton Highway to Fairbanks. We also flew to Barrow, Alaska, and had a layover in Prudhoe Bay, so we kind of feel like we were at the start of the highway. After arriving in Barrow, we went on the Top of the World tour. With all that in mind, how could we pass up an opportunity to visit the End of the World. Route 3 is considered the last leg of the Pan American Highway, which we captured in quick pictures from the bus. You would think on winding roads, a bus would take it’s time, but no…we were zooming.
There was a large crowd around the sign, so we opted to take a short walk to the lake over-look of Lapataia Bay.
Back at the sign, we excitedly took pictures on the “end of the road”. We were thrilled with our accomplishment!!!
On the ride back to Ushuaia, we enjoyed a sighting of a hawk, Upland Geese, amazing scenery, and interesting buildings.
Ushuaia has amazing views and is a very quaint area.
We elected to be drop off outside the port so that we could explore Ushuaia. As we walked the streets, we enjoyed how safe it felt.
We found the cemetery. Being Argentina, it was very much like Buenos Aries.
The area near the water had numerous statues as well as the local museum.
We watched as a large barrel of crabs were brought up from a small fishing boat via a rubber raft. They were big, very, very big.
We walked out onto the levy for a great view of the ship.
We stopped at the Ushuaia sign for the obligatory pictures with Spuddy Buddy ( our Idaho mascot), General Determination(the mascot of Kettering University) and the William Penn University flag.
As we made our way back to the pier, we passed a hand-rail covered in crochet squares. We are not sure of the significance, but it is better than locks and looked pretty awesome.
We found a penguin souvenir from a local vendor. He said it is made of 3 kinds of wood and cow horn. We told us that he and his brothers make them, so whether that is true or not, the penguin is beautiful.
We still had time before we needed to be back on the ship, so we took our time…ate some chips, and enjoyed the sun.
It had been a great day in Ushuaia, Argentina, but still more things to see. On to the glaciers of the Beagle Channel…